May 26, 2023

Key provisions in the budget bill passed last night by the Massachusetts Senate make services for individuals experiencing mental health and substance use conditions and their families a top priority.

The leadership, hard work, and strong commitment of Senate President Karen E. Spilka, Senate Committee on Ways and Means (SWM) Chair Sen. Michael J. Rodrigues, SWM Vice Chair Sen. Cindy F. Friedman, SWM Assistant Vice Chair Sen. Joanne M. Comerford, and all their staff have resulted in much needed increases in funding for key behavioral health programs and initiatives.

“I’m very pleased that my Senate colleagues recognized the need to increase behavioral health services in several key areas. These vital services were extremely impacted by the pandemic and we felt it was necessary to bring delivery of these critical services back up to speed. I’d like to commend Senate President Spilka for her strong commitment to providing a strong social service safety net supporting mental health and combating substance use in the Commonwealth,” said Chair Rodrigues.

The Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Senate budget includes a $15M increase over FY23 for the Department of Mental Health (DMH) Adult Emergency Room (ER) Diversion Initiative, which funds mobile and site-based providers who serve adults experiencing a mental health crisis. For years, ER boarding has been a major concern in the Commonwealth which has been further exacerbated by workforce shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded at $19M in the FY24 Senate budget, this particular program allowed 1,225 adults to receive services in the community between July 1, 2022 and February 10, 2023, instead of being boarded in the ER.

“For too long, behavioral health has been stigmatized, ignored, or not treated properly, and the results of this can be seen in emergency rooms that are overfilled, understaffed, and unprepared to meet the needs of their patients. Our emergency room boarding crisis is a major barrier to high-quality and appropriate mental and behavioral health care. Our new law, the Mental Health ABC Act, takes concrete steps to address this crisis, but we must also reinforce our policy reforms with expanded funding to behavioral health services. With this two-pronged approach, we can ensure that patients receive the compassion, support, and effective treatment they need and deserve.”
Senate President Karen E. Spilka

Also included in the Senate budget are increases for two important housing programs: the DMH Rental Subsidy Program (RSP) and the Safe Haven Program. A $4M increase over the FY23 budget for the RSP will help more individuals who are unhoused or housing insecure with severe and disabling mental health conditions. A similar increase – $3M over FY23 – for the Safe Haven Program will serve those who are chronically homeless and often have co-occurring substance use conditions find low threshold transitional housing, connections to medical services and a bridge to permanent housing. The increase would help create six new Safe Havens and ensure geographically equitable access for those who need a safe place to live.

The Senate budget bill also includes continued funding for creation of the Middlesex County Restoration Center, which will support ongoing law enforcement diversionary efforts and serve as a model for future centers across the state.

“I am so proud that the Senate budget continues its commitment to making the Middlesex County Restoration Center a reality,” said Vice Chair Friedman. “This center will expand the community's capacity for mental health and substance use treatment and help provide urgent care options for people in crises or with immediate behavioral health needs.”

These initiatives, among others, are all prioritized in this strong FY24 Senate budget, along with appropriations from the Behavioral Health Trust Fund that will result in significant investments to grow and diversify the behavioral health workforce.

“We are grateful for the Senate’s leadership and continued commitment to behavioral health. We must act now – with both our time and our dollars – to support vulnerable populations and those in need.”
MAMH President and CEO Danna Mauch

Over the coming weeks, the Senate and House will work together through the Conference Committee process to iron out the differences between their two budget plans. Behavioral health is important to both branches in the legislature, and we anticipate that leaders will work together to ensure that behavioral health remains a priority in the budget package that is sent to the Governor’s desk this summer.

Recent Posts

A dark outline of an individual with headphones on, the background features blue and purple mountains before a yellow red sky, musical notes float through the sky.

Massachusetts Middle and High School Students Win Creative Expression Contest Exploring Mental Health

News

First place winners from Peabody, Worcester, Worthington, Taunton, Hopkinton, and Medway take home $250 prizes. Artists look inward to explore themes around mental health and wellness.

First Place C Bates P Kinney cropped

The Mental Health Matters: Student Expression Contest is Back! Let's Get Creative!

Events

Submit your artwork by Wednesday, April 24 to be considered!

Black History Month

Celebrating Black History

On Purpose

This Black History Month, we remember and honor two Black women leaders who made great strides advancing justice and equity: Dean Elizabeth “Betty” Rawlins and Dr. June Jackson Christmas.

Get important updates on mental health news, events, and advocacy delivered right to your inbox!

Subscribe Now